Copulatory behaviors

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I will present the fundamental elements of sexual behavior in reverse order. First we will examine copulatory behavior, the series of reflexes or fixed action patterns that usually are activated or executed in association with sperm deposit in the female's vagina or uterus. Please note that this statement refers to copulatory behaviors in non-human mammals. We have already learned that human sexual interactions do not necessarily end in intravaginal sperm deposit. We have also, at least implicitly, noted that human sexual behaviors are far less stereotyped than those found in other mammals. The discussion beginning here and continuing over the next several pages refers, consequently, mainly to non-human copulatory behavior. In fact, due to the rather important difference between human and non-human copulatory activities with regard to variability and flexibility of behavior patterns, I have found it convenient to analyze human behavior in a separate section.

In the male mammal, the reflexes or fixed action patterns executed during copulation ultimately lead to vaginal penetration and eventually ejaculation. In the female mammal, the reflexes or fixed action patterns essentially allow the male to achieve vaginal penetration. In addition to these fundamental aspects of copulatory behavior, males and females of many species display a varying number of other behaviors during the course of sexual interaction. Most of these other behaviors have unknown or little known consequences for the end point of sperm deposit. Furthermore, there are many instances in which elements of copulatory behavior are displayed in contexts where no sperm deposit is possible. Usually, these behavioral elements are identical to some behaviors normally displayed during the sequence of events leading to sperm deposit. Frequently, these behaviors are heterotypical, i.e. a female displaying elements of typically male copulatory behavior or vice versa. Many examples of this will appear later on. I will include all reflexes or fixed actions patterns of this kind under the label of copulatory behavior.

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